Update on postinjury nutrition

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Purpose of review

Nutritional supplementation is paramount to the care of severely injured patients. Despite its widespread use in trauma, many areas of clinical nutrition remain controversial and not well defined. The benefit of early enteral nutrition in the care of injured patients has been well established, with further benefit derived by the administration of immune-enhancing formulas supplemented with glutamine, arginine, nucleotides, and omega-3-fatty acids. A new paradigm of pharmaconutrition has been developed that separates the administration of immunomodulatory nutrients from that of nutritional support. The optimal utilization and benefit of pharmaconutrients, however, remains unclear, as does the need for full caloric provision in the early postinjury phase.

Recent findings

Nutrition studies with the greatest reduction in morbidity and mortality are those utilizing specific nutrients. The use of pharmaconutrients to modulate the inflammatory and immune response associated with critical illness seems to provide benefit to critically ill and injured patients. Additionally, studies at least suggest that trauma patients derive comparable if not additional benefit from hypocaloric feeding during the acute phase of injury.


Building upon previous well performed studies in trauma patients, the current focus of nutritional investigations center on the use of pharmaconutrients to modulate the inflammatory response and the use of hypocaloric feeds. These practices will be reviewed and evidence presented for their use in critically ill and injured patients.

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